The long awaited contract for 24 Sikorsky MH60-R Multi-Role helicopters for the Indian Navy has finally been sealed in yet another G2G deal under the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme. The deal inked during the visit of the US President Donald Trump, worth almost $ 3billion has taken the US-India arms trade to almost $ 20 billion and has further consolidated the defence underpinnings of the strategic relationship.
Procured under the 'Buy (Global)' Category, the delivery is planned early 2021 and comes at a time when the Indian Ocean Region is witnessing increasing security threat due to the proliferation of enemy submarines.
According to Commodore Anil Jai Singh (retd), Vice President and Head-Delhi branch, Indian Maritime Foundation, "From India's perspective, these helicopters will provide the Indian Navy a very effective anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and anti-surface warfare (ASuW) capability with their advanced weapon and sensor suite comprising Mk 54 Lightweight torpedoes, eight anti-surface Hell-Fire missiles and 50 mm cannons."
"In its ASW role, it will bridge, to some extent, the widening capability gap in India's undersea warfare preparedness. ASW helicopters are a potent force multiplier and an integral part of Fleet operations. They provide the eyes and ears to provide early detection of lurking submarines and can be deployed to either search and attack submarines or vector surface ASW forces onto a submarine that has been detected and greatly complicates its ability to evade or even counter-attack," explains Singh.
Naval Multi role helicopters are very sophisticated platforms and will be integral to the Indian Navy's modern destroyers and frigates. Both the Delhi and Kolkatta class destroyers and the under-construction Project 15B destroyers are designed to carry such helicopters.
The Project 17 and 17A frigates and the latest Project 28 ASW corvettes are designed to carry one such helicopter each. In addition, these form part of the air component of an aircraft carrier."
So far the Indian Navy has been very ably served by the Sea King 42/42A helicopters in three variants with the 42 B providing the ASW capability. However, these helicopters are now long in the teeth and in need of replacement
In Commodore Singh's opinion, "The NMRH will not only replace the Sea King fleet but will also form the nucleus of the Navy's future air ASW and air ASuW capability. The Indian Navy has a requirement for 123 such helicopters, the indigenous manufacture of which has been under discussion for almost a decade. Finally, these 24 helicopters will address the immediate requirement but are clearly inadequate. It is therefore hoped that this acquisition will not induce a sense of complacency as the need for the remaining is equally acute."
"Coming under the 'Capability-Based Perspective Plan' 24 MH – 60R Multi-Role Helicopters (MRH) are expected to operate from frontline ships and aircraft carriers. These helicopters will provide them with the critical attributes of the flexibility of operation enhanced surveillance and attacking capability," says the Indian Navy.
These helicopters have the capability to be employed for offensive and defensive roles including Anti-Submarine Warfare, Anti-Ship Strike, Low-Intensity Maritime Operations, Search and Rescue, over the horizon Network Centric Operations and Electronic Warfare.
These helicopters can be launched for prolonged maritime operations and can be seamlessly be integrated with the P8i and ships at sea.
Financial Express Online had reported that there will offset clause in this deal.
Under the Make in India initiative, the OEM M/s Lockheed Martin would be discharging offsets through the transfer of technology to Indian Offset Partners for manufacture of products and services.
This will help in the absorption of niche technology, skill development and manufacture of eligible products/ services. This will lead to generation of employment, skilling of MSMEs and indigenous production of products for buy-back by the OEM.
What does the company say?
"India will become the fourth international country, joining Australia, Denmark and Saudi Arabia, to operate the MH-60R Romeo, which is the most advanced maritime helicopter in the world," says Dan Spoor, Vice President, Sikorsky Maritime and Mission Systems.